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  • Tuesday, 25 July - Ask your customers more and better open questions

Tuesday, 25 July - Ask your customers more and better open questions

Have the courage to dig deeper

Hello Subscriber,

The theme for this week’s daily practice to improve your selling is to spend less time talking about what you’re selling!

Yesterday, your practice focus was: “Become much more aware of how much of your meeting time is spent talking about what you’re selling.”

If you’re not talking about your products and services, how could your time talking with customers be used more effectively?

There’s a simple answer. Ask your customer more and better questions. Get them talking about their situation and needs.

I’m sure you already know that the best questions are open questions. These are the ones that can’t be answered “yes” or “no”. Open questions start with one of the six open-question words:

  • How…?

  • What…?

  • When…?

  • Where…?

  • Who…?

  • Why…?

Here’s one area of practice to emphasise today

Have the courage to dig deeper by asking your customers more and better open questions.

Dig Deeper

  • Very often, the best open questions are the ones that take a part of the answer to one of your earlier open questions and dig deeper.

  • Here’s an example:

    • Salesperson: How do you currently find the information we’ve just discussed?

    • Customer: We normally have to ask a team member to manually review the data and get back to us when they have the answers.

    • Salesperson: What happens when you need to wait for your team member to get back to you?

    • Customer: The delay means that sometimes our customers become frustrated with our levels of service.

    • Salesperson: What are the implications of these customers becoming frustrated?

    • Etc.

The Power of Naive Questions

Some of the best open questions are “naive questions”.

Naive questions are the ones where the answer seems blindingly obvious. And because the answer seems self-evident, we don’t ask the naive question.

The final question in the example above is a naive question. It seems obvious that the implication of customers becoming frustrated is the risk that they take their business elsewhere.

Although it can be a difficult conversation, most customers will welcome some help from a knowledgeable industry expert like you. You can help them reflect on the implications of failing to resolve their issue.

Asking these naive questions can lead to uncomfortable conversations. But it’s often uncomfortable conversations that lead to breakthroughs!

To Repeat: One area of practice to emphasise today

Have the courage to dig deeper by asking your customers more and better open questions.

Remember to stay quiet!

  • When you ask your best open questions, it’s very likely that your customer will need to reflect on their answer before replying.


  • Don’t interrupt their thinking. Give them time to work out their response.

  • This can sometimes feel like an enormously long time.

  • For some salespeople who have previously sold by talking, staying quiet while customers reflect before answering can be one of the hardest bits of asking great open questions!

What does success with today’s practice look like?

  • If you ask a lot more open questions, more of your time with customers will be spent listening to them talk about their situation and needs.

  • Instead of talking about aspects of your products or services, you will learn more about your customers’ priorities.

  • You will learn a whole range of new aspects of their situation. This additional knowledge and insight will enable you to develop more compelling proposals.

  • If you genuinely focus on today’s practice theme, the evidence of your success will be that you sell lots more to happier customers!

Coaching Focus

Here are some suggestions about what your sales team leader or coach can do to help you with today’s practice focus.

You could invite your sales team leader or coach to help you to:

  1. Listen in or review some recordings of your recent meetings with customers to evaluate the quality of your questions:

    1. How many of your questions are open as opposed to closed?

    2. How often do your open questions dig deeper about something you learned from an earlier answer?

    3. What were your best naive questions?

    4. How did your customer respond to your best open questions?

  2. Prepare for a conversation you’re about to lead with a customer and develop high-quality, pre-prepared open questions that are especially relevant to this customer.

Final Reminder: One area of practice to emphasise today

Have the courage to dig deeper by asking your customers more and better open questions.

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